|By tom ivers (ca-arcdca-cuda1-c1b-231.arcdca.adelphia.net - 22.214.171.124) on Tuesday, October 18, 2005 - 9:46 pm: Edit Post|
Community Development, that nebulous beast, certainly can be full of surprises and can hardly be said to be dull, especially for us here in Maracay, Venezuela. There are always a million projects and very little time in which to do them.
Rube Kaiser and I arrived here in June 1964 as part of the first Urban Community Development group. At first it was a little difficult to get started in our barrio, “29 de Enero”, an area of about 25,000 people, mainly because it was so large. Our main frustration lay in the fact that we lived about five miles away from the barrio and therefore could not get to know the barrio until we actually moved there.
So we set out to solve the housing problem. Some time later we managed to find a fairly nice place, partly finished, in the lower part of the barrio. We began negotiations with the landlord, an enterprising Portuguese fellow who owned about half the business in that area. Despite our mixture of Portuguese and wetback English, we managed to make it clear that we wanted to live in a completed house. The landlord promised that it would be completed by the first part of July.
Well, the first part of July came and passed. Rube and I wondered if our eyesight had begun to fail as nothing appeared to have changed in relation to the house. As it turned out, this was just our first taste of that dreaded Venezuelan disease, “mananismo”.
Of course our landlord had an explanation and set the new date of completion as July 15th. And so it went. Our frequent visits to the landlord with our begging, pleading, cajoling, and complaining were met by his alibiing, explaining, soothing, and stalling. Finally, in the latter part of August, our “hacienda” was just about completed.
As I mentioned, the place was almost completed. The last project, pumping the sewer water out of the septic tank, located beneath the living room, was being taken care of. That night, confident that the house would be finished by the next day, Rube and I went home at the usual time.
Yes, the house was finished all right, but not quite as we had expected. As we found out the next day, just as the last of the sewer water was being taken out and the finishing touches put on, one of the workmen decided to light a cigarette. Now we can’t blame the workman for everything. How was he to know that there was a deposit of gas within the tank? It doesn’t require a mind of staggering proportions to guess the following events. Kavoom! There went the house!
Inspecting the remains the next day, Rube and I found the floor blown to pieces, the walls cracked, windows shattered, iron doors knocked off, and the ceiling sprayed a rather earthy color. Of the five persons who had been inside at the time of the blast, none were hurt, miraculously.
Shortly afterward, forced to rely upon our Peace Corps training, which stressed the meaning of flexibility, Rube and I located another house and moved into the barrio, but not before we had carefully checked the location of the sanitary facilities. Like I said, never a dull moment in Community Development!